Mary Broadbent: Tour Manager
Introduce yourself to us! What do you do in the industry? Where are you from? Hi, my name is Mary, I work on tour with bands and artists as a tour manager and/or backline-guitar tech.
I’m from the east coast originally, but moved up and down the coast a lot. I would identify with Boston, Philadelphia, and Asheville, NC as my home bases aside from L.A. these days.
How did you get your start in the industry, and how long have you been in the industry?
I’ve been working on tour with bands for 16 years now. When I started, I actually came to LA to finish up my degree in Tv/video production - I wanted to be an editor and make music videos. It wasn’t til during my internship in LA that a video director at the production house I interned with suggested working on tour with bands. After learning this was a job in the music industry, and already having a background in travel growing up, I knew it was the perfect job for me.
I got my start doing small gigs around LA as a stagehand for theaters and local festivals. This helped build my resume and then I eventually got my big break working with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy on tour as their merch manager/truck driver at 23. From there I’ve gone from merch manager to tour manager and now also do backline, stage management, and guitar techin’.
When did you know being in the business is what you wanted to do? Was there a specific
moment where you were like “oh god, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life”?
I think it was there from an early age to be involved in the music business & entertainment industry. I was grew up around music and theater all my life with dance, singing, acting classes, musicals, and was even in a rock band in high school where we wrote our own music, played shows around town, and cut 2 albums before graduation. those were all early steps towards the music industry.
For me, so it was pretty much a no-brainer to continue that love and passion for live performance when picking out a job.
My first ‘Oh God! - This is for me!’ moment was when i was 5-6? Years old and I was performing in a ballet recital. After our performance was over and we danced off-stage, my teacher asked me to go back onstage to collect a flower for some reason. I did, then got another small applause and I guess just that immediate adoration from the audience really stuck for me, like, ok - this is for me. I look at that connection with the crowd as moment where people are supporting you for who you are and inspired by what you do. When I tour manage now, I’ll still peek out from behind the scenes, and still watch the audience reacting to the show onstage. it’s exciting to see the band/artist connecting with their fans. Watching people and witnessing their energy during a show is fascinating and emotional. When people are watching and singing songs to their favorite band/artist they are all together in the audience but each having their own moment and going through their own story - it’s a crazy experience to see in public on people’s faces being so raw and honest with zero inhibitions.
Is there anything you struggled with (or even still do struggle with) being in the industry?
My early ones were finding touring gigs, a community of friends/peers off & on the road, finances, and non-discrimination in the touring industry.
Minus the community of friends/peers, all those are still off/on struggles, but i’m more familiar with how to navigate through them and plan ahead. A more pressing one for me these days includes finding enough time to take care of myself and eating healthy on tour. Right now, I’m taking time off to focus on these things so i’ll be ready when the touring season picks up again.
What is the best part of your job? Why?
I think the main thing I enjoy is being part of a team, taking care of people, and everyone becoming a family on tour. I really love making people feel good and when I see or hear I’ve made the artist or the band have a better day, it lets me know I'm doing my job right. I also enjoy advancing, solving problems, and filling in all the information for tours - that’s fun and challenging for me and ever changing, so i always learn something new which I love.
Is there someone who you consider as your mentor in the industry? My primary mentor has always been Brian Stanley (tm/foh/pm for big bad voodoo daddy). We worked together on the first professional tour i ever did, and watching him day in and out was extremely beneficial and helped me ultimately steer towards being a tour manager.. He’s always been very good at navigating his team on tours as well as has great organization, communication, and is always on top of new innovations for tours as well as the ever changing rules for tour logistics. When I go back to work for him, I still learn a lot and he’s very straight forward with his guidance which can be very helpful for personal and professional growth.
My parents, of course, are my other main mentors. They both have worked in leadership roles. My dad was a CEO by the time he retired, so he’s great at helping me see the bigger picture of situations and gives me great advice and guidance.
My other main mentors are my friends from touring. I’ll definitely hit up 1 or 2 friends for a 3rd party’s opinion on a situation I’m going through or choice I have to make for work if I’m at a stand still working through it myself.
What advice do you have for women who want to get their start in the music industry?
Go with your gut, jump in, see where you land, and if the course changes and you still like the path you’re on, see where it goes! Know your strengths and weaknesses. Choose your battles wisely - not everyone and everything is worth the fight. Be able to take constructive criticism, but also stand up for yourself. People will put you in a box to fit their own ideas of you, but you define your potential and who you are, not them. Make sure to vocalize what you want and show your peers what you’re capable of and if they still can’t see it - it’s time to move on and find a community that will. Learn the Hustle is real and be prepared for the triumphs, as well as the failures you’ll come across, but know everyone goes through both these things so keep your nose clean and chin up and be thankful for every opportunity you receive. Know
your worth and value that you bring to a team. Don’t let anyone waste your time. Learn the Hustle is real, have a good attitude always, and leave a positive impression on those you meet. Try to be perceptive and aware of others and their moods. Lastly, we’re all human and trying to do our best - keep this in mind, and others will do the same for you.
Have you ever been turned down or not taken seriously because you were a female in the
industry? What did you do when put into that position?
Yes. I’ve had management companies say they can’t hire me because I’m female and the organization isn’t comfortable working with female crew personnel, although this is rapidly changing. I usually handle this with tac when it does occur. Thanking them for their honesty and if the group changes their mind or there is another organization the management represents to keep me in mind for. I don’t really dwell on these let downs, if anything it’s just guiding me to something better.
I’ve also had issues with crew members where i’m challenged by them because they simply are uncomfortable with me, automatically think they know better, question my direction, and overall have a lack of respect for me as a female being a tour manager or co-worker. To clarify - I have run into a few men AND women who are like this. Some of them I don’t think realize they are being sexist, but those that do actually have less of a problem being vocal about it and somehow feel like their actions are justified.
I really try not to throw down the gender card when these social challenges arise at work with someone. I try to understand what’s motivating an individual to act the way they do. however if someone is just outrightly unprofessional and can’t conduct themselves or show respect due to gender related reasons you either have a choice to work around them, tell management to handle, or if you’re in the position to dismiss them. We all have to live together on tour, so getting along with everyone is very important and if you can't get on board with the team - especially after you’ve been warned - you’re bound to get voted off the island.
What are some of your other hobbies? What do you do in your free time (which we know can be very hard to find)? I like reading, singing and writing music, cooking, yoga, hiking, listening to podcasts, going to movies, and visiting disneyland. I also love coming back to la and seeing what’s new in town - it’s ever changing, so you’re never bored here. Exploring around town and getting lost in the city is a lot of fun when you have nowhere to be
Tour must-have? Tour bus blanket - it gets cold on a bus. Flashlight - great for show days and anytime when it’s dark in a tour bus my hd for movies - I take it on all my tours, everyone loves getting cozy as a group after a show and picking a movie from it knife/leatherman - always good Sharpie - small, but important Flip-flops - great for showers and when you have to get on off the bus pretty quickly Wireless Headphones - I wear mine around my neck all day, they double as earplugs Bathrobe and face mask - so when i have downtime in my hotel room I can do something pampering lowkey.
What is the best/worst tour memory you have? I'll name two best memories as I don’t like to focus on the negative.
one best memory - I planned a birthday surprise for my old tour manager for fitz and the tantrums, at midnight on his birthday. I arranged getting tons of cans of silly string and asked the band and crew to get in on the surprise. it was load out and Aaron (the tour manager) was busy overseeing our gear was getting loaded out from the venue ok. The band was outside by the tour bus - cans in hand - and we were trying to figure out a way to get Aaron to come outside so we could surprise him. Fitz told me to call him on radio and say it was urgent - that Fitz needed to see him about the tour bus. I called him and as he was heading towards the busses i ran to meet him so the band - who was hiding around the corner - would know he was coming. as Aaron hurried towards the bus - fully in tour manager mode - he
rounded the corner. and the band jumped out yelling ‘surprise! happy birthday!’. Aaron was royally silly stringed so much so that he looked like a pink version of the swamp thing. it made me happy we were all able to pull off with such a loosely planned surprise. but it worked, and Aaron enjoyed it.
My other best memory happened last year with Magic Giant where I was the tour manager for this run and it was my birthday on tour. We were in minneapolis for a show day and in the morning the crew found out it was my birthday, which I kept a secret all day. By show time everyone knew, and the band brought me out on stage at the end of their set and sang happy birthday to me. It made me feel so loved. After the show was over, they surprised me further by loading all three bands/crew into our tour bus, and when I came on the bus after load out they all shouted ‘surprise!’ started playing ‘celebrate good times’ and had decorated the whole bus with streamers and balloons and even bought a cake for me. I was so stunned, happy, and a little shy about it all, but it was probably one of the sweetest things a band has ever done for me. Regardless of it being my birthday, it was wonderful everyone on our tour was finally getting a chance to hang out together and have fun since we had a crazy schedule and hadn’t really had a chance to outside of this day.
What are show days like on tour? Every day is the same, but different, however overall they’re constantly BUSY. i have the mentality to always stay busy on tour so i’m always working. My day-to-day is answering emails & phone calls, printing out day sheets, hanging signage, doing walkthroughs with venue manager, coordinating promos and meet & greets, reviewing riders for hospitality, dinner, buyouts, aftershow food, arranging transportation for drivers, crew, band, confirming hotel reservations and creating new ones, collecting guest lists, printing set lists, arranging transpo for artist to from promo/hotels/personal errands, reviewing routing for that evening and the next morning, checking the weather for travel. Keeping bus tidy, icing the bus, getting hospitality to the bus from the venue, group text announcements to everyone for the current day and the next day. Touching base with support tms for their bands when they arrive to venue and passing along any venue or routing information to them they’ll need to know. Assisting everyone with whatever they need help with when i’m free to do so. It’s a lot of work, and there’s a lot of things i left out, but that’s a large chunk of what i do day in and out on the road.
Who is your all-time favorite artist? NO DOUBT/GWEN STEFANI
What is something you can't live without? Lush cosmetics - I love taking baths and doing face masks, their essential oils are so lovely and last all day.
Go-to Karaoke song? Suspicious minds by Elvis Presley or Video Killed the Radio Star by the Buggles, but i prefer POTUS’s rendition to sing to
Tea or Coffee? Coffee
Celeb crush? Chris pratt and sebastian stan
First concert you went to? Huey lewis and the news
What’s something that you always have on you? My phone, water bottle, lipbalm, flashlight, and possibly a book or my headphones.
Who is your dream artist or band to tour/work with? I would love to work with Weezer, No Doubt, or P!nk. Mainly because they all put on such great live shows and their tours are surrounded with good people behind the scenes from what I know and have heard. Plus, I love all their music.
What does a typical day at work look like for you when you're not on tour? I am freelance, so when a tour ends, my job ends and I move on to find the next thing. So there’s really no ‘working from home’ schedule unless I’m advancing for the next tour run. In this case, I’m usually at my favorite coffee shop answering emails all day while enjoying a breakfast burrito and a london fog, but it’s on my own time. If i’ve just completed a tour run and have nothing lined up yet, I’m working on finding the next gig, working locally for a little bit, or finding a way to gain experience for the next tour. This year, i’ve taken jan and feb off with my next tour starting in march. While off i plan to focus on rest and health since 2019 was very busy. However i’m also focusing on live sound and shadowing at the federal bar in l.a. in my downtime.
What do you do between tours?
Between tours, I usually either go home to LA or spend time in Asheville with my family for a bit. Sometimes I’ll also I’ve plan a personal vacation abroad for myself. But if i don't go on vacation, the standard procedure is I usually hibernate at my place aka netflix and chill.
Then slowly piece together an at-home routine - house maintenance, read, gym, visit friends, writing, hobbies. I’ll also take some local work in LA if it comes my way, but for the most part I try to relax and recharge until the next tour run. If I’m tour managing, i’ll mainly be at a coffee shop advancing the next tour. Just depends on the length of time I have off really.
Where do you see yourself in five years? Still touring, but splitting time between the road and working possibly in-town either in los angeles or in asheville where I plan to buy property one day.
What do you hope to see done in the industry within the next few years? The movement and growth of more environmentally friendly touring. There are some organizations out there already helping tours take action and reduce the use of plastic. Some venues I’ve been to recently also impose tours to use reusable cups and water bottles and don’t provide disposable options. I’d love to see it’s impact and development in 5 years. I’m sure as more people are educated and willing to make small changes on tour with a ‘no-plastic tour’ lifestyle, the more popular eco-friendly tours will become.
The absence of sexism on tour. I know we’re all aware and working towards making these changes already, but if they’re still a topic, then they still exist. I’ve seen the change and i’ve also seen the absence of it on tours. But those who do encourage hiring men & women for their experience over gender, offering equal pay, and treating their team without judgement of their intelligence and work ethic based off sex do exist and are slowly growing in our organization. Of course it’s not just about the higher ups enforcing some of these changes, it has to be about everyone making time to acknowledge the problems going on, make changes themselves, and vocalize them. We all impact our team and environment in the long run. I’m looking forward to seeing how this grows and shapes in the future and have already worked with some great organizations and peers this year that encourage and insist upon equality in the workplace.
Other things that would be beneficial - 3rd party hr companies, freelance touring contracts, enforcement of average pay wages to set standards.
What are you most proud of?
I’m always happy I went against the current and listened to my instincts choosing touring over working towards my degree as a music video editor. when I found out about touring, there wasn’t much hesitation to let go of this idea. It was tough - I even had a choice at one point to take a part-time job or go on the road with a band in a van for $200 for a month when i was getting down to the wire on needing to earn money. I chose the tour, the band didn’t pay me, but I still walked away with more experience towards what i wanted to do and it led me to landing my first major tour with that experience, which the part-time job wouldn’t have. 16 years later that decision has still paid off.
Aside from this, i’m proud of the people and tours i’m surrounded by. They’ve all added so much to my life in different ways and i’m always thankful and proud of what they’ve brought to the table for myself.
Lastly, what saying do you live by?
I have a few quotes that i think of on the regular.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did,\ but they will never forget how you made them feel” - Maya Angelou
“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off”
- Gloria Steinman
“Do Less with more focus”
“Blowing out someone’s candle doesn’t make yours shine any brighter.”
“Wake up, and be fucking happy”
- Chelsea Handler